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Growing for CHANGE is an initiative founded by the University of Virginia's 2015 Dalai Lama Fellows, Shantell Bingham and Artem Demchenko. The initiative works to dissolve social barriers between the University of Virginia and the Westhaven community through collaborative design, nutritious food, and empowerment.

We match Westhaven residents with a small group of students. Students engage with our educational curriculum which builds cultural competency and allows them to work mindfully with residents. Over the course of the semester, students and families meet to design gardens together. At the end of the co-design phase students and families submit their designs for review, materials are purchased, and gardens are built. In the spring, families receive the gardens they helped to design and are able to engage in gardening classes. We work side by side with community stakeholders to ensure our process remains inclusive and applicable.

These gardens will tackle the problem of limited space and land ownership posed by housing developments through design, provide access to nutritional foods and gardening programs, and work to empower community residents. We seek to create a vision of a healthy and inclusive community among all stakeholders in which harmonious social relationships will prosper and access to a healthier food environment is possible.

Although this organization has members who are University of Virginia students and may have University employees associated or engaged in its activities and affairs, the organization is not a part of or an agency of the University. It is a separate and independent organization which is responsible for and manages its own activities and affairs. The University does not direct, supervise or control the organization and is not responsible for the organization’s contracts, acts or omissions.

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